Diversity Dialogues Week comes to campus

Diversity+Dialogues+Week+comes+to+campus

Gannon University kicked off Diversity Dialogues Week with the observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day  Monday with coordinated events including a march, prayer service and luncheon.    The luncheon featured speakers Marcus Atkinson and Tiffany McCloud.

Atkinson is the director of the YMCA Teen Center and McCloud is the president of the Erie Chapter of NAACP, as well as a doctoral candidate and adjunct professor of human diversity at Gannon.

Laura Goble, director of the Center for Social Concerns, said the march, prayer service and luncheon have been a public part of Gannon’s observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and are annual events.

“Other events are new,” Goble said.  “We decided to honor the legacy of Dr. King by creating space to celebrate, explore and dialogue about the diversity that exists in our community.”

Arlena Turner, the student chairperson for MLK events, said attending the planned events last year made her want to lend helping hands in coordinating them this year.

“To me MLK Day means growth, liberties, love, how far we’ve come as a nation for equality and the next important stages in life one will take,” Turner said. “I wanted to create a memorable day in honor of Dr. King, a day filled with excitement and joy of how far we’ve come and how we shall look toward the future guiding the next generation.”

The theme this year for MLK Day Observance is “Lift Up Our Youth.”  The theme also applies to Gannon’s 2015 multimedia contest.

The contest accepts submissions of art from undergraduate and graduate students that relate to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.  Media accepted include photographs, posters, poems, paintings, essays, songs, weavings and sculpture.

Three winners will be selected with a $100 first-place prize, $75 second place and $50 third place. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 2, and they should be sent to Sara Lichtenwalter, Ph.D.

More immediately, posters for the march were made Sunday night.

“We’re inviting students, especially those that have tutored, mentored or volunteered to support youth in our community, to make signs that support and inspire youth to use during the march,” Goble said.

Diversity Dialogues Week touches on more than Monday’s holiday, however.

Tuesday was Gender and Sexuality day, featuring a tea talk with Dr. Richard Moody at the Knight Club and a prayer vigil to end hatred sponsored by LIFE at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel.  Diversity Dialogues Week continues with Local and Global Culture day Wednesday, Faith Connections day Thursday and Building a Movement of Inclusion Friday.

Wednesday will showcase the cultures of Gannon students with campus organizations hosting tables in the Waldron Campus Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  There will also be a potluck dinner focused on international students and new American community members in the third floor lounge of the Palumbo Academic Center at 5:30 p.m.

David McCartney, a senior biology major and student chair of Diversity Dialogues Week, said the potluck is one of the nicest ways to intermingle with everybody.

“Of course, nothing brings people together like food,” he added.

McCartney said that Thursday’s events are made to encourage religious acceptance.  There will be an ecumenical prayer for unity service at 11 a.m. in Room 219 of the Waldron Campus Center that will feature prayers from Christian, Jewish and Muslim students, a conversation session from noon to 1 p.m. about choosing to wear hijabs and burkas and a chance to see the short film “Admissions,” which spotlights the conflict and peace efforts between Israel and Palestine.

A faculty panel discussion board is also planned following the movie.  Professors from different departments will be availiable to give students ideas for how to start their own discussions.

Lori Lindley, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology; David Martine, an instructor in the criminal justice program; Chris Magno, Ph.D., an assistant professor of criminal justice; and Jane Walsh, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology, will be included in the panel.

Friday will round up the week of events with a formal word burial in hopes of eradicating hurtful words and phrases from students’ vocabularies.   McCartney said the idea came from The NAACP’s work to bury a certian offensive word so it is no longer carries an offensive context.

Contributions to the collection of words to be buried can be made by responding to the online poll at: https://www.polleverywhere.com/free_text_polls/b0qWK4X7AE7yXlJ/web. Students can also participate by texting BADWORDS and a message to 747-444-3548.

The burial will take place starting at the piano lounge in Waldron Campus Center at noon and continuing onto Friendship Green until 1 p.m.

McCartney said he is most excited for Friday.

“There were considerations made for a headstone for the words,” he said.  “It hasn’t been finalized, but I would be leaving my mark there if it is.”

McCartney said the point of Diversity Dialogues Week is to encourage conversation about hard topics.

“It’s the idea of creating conversations about things like race and sexuality to promote diversity and inclusion,” he said.

“Gannon is already diverse, but we’re taking that and making an effort to be more accepting while talking about diversity.”

While he has been planning the week’s events since August, McCartney recognized it as a cumulative effort under the direction of Goble.

“The best part is [seeing] everybody wanting and willing to participate and encouraging people to show up,” said McCartney.

“I had to realize that I can’t do everything I envisioned, and that change can’t happen right away.

“I might never see the fruits of my effort, but I can plant the seeds.”

 

 

KELSEY GHERING

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